My Mentor: Adam Boulton on Leslie Stone

'He didn't think you had to spend 10 years covering village fêtes before getting a break'

When I came back to London after university in 1981, my father insisted I was going to be unemployed for the rest of my life, and told me to sign on at the dole centre. But by the time I arranged my first interview, Leslie had hired me on a temporary basis at Central Current Affairs Talks at the BBC. I had been rejected by all the graduate-trainee schemes and this bald, moon-faced man, who was head at the time, was the only person to give me a chance.

Let's be clear about this. When I went to work for him I had no idea how to write, let alone how to write for radio. But that was what he did, he used his position to give people their break. He wasn't interested in where people were institutionally or where they went to school, and was the complete reverse of this idea that you have to spend 10 years covering village fêtes before you get your opportunity. All he wanted to know was if I knew about America, if I was interested in it, and if so to get on and write.

At the time Leslie was very sceptical about everything going on at the BBC and was a sort of authorised dissident, able to deflate his bosses with one remark out of the side of his mouth. Also, in corporate politics he was his own worst enemy and I think I've learnt to be slightly more diplomatic as a result.

But aside from that, he was a tremendously intelligent man who knew everything from Arsenal football club to Californian wine.

As a boss, I found him fantastically motivational because when he gave you a job, he left you in no doubt whatsoever that he thought you could do it. He boosted your confidence, but at the same time he was never a man to stand on ceremony; if you had missed the point, he would cut straight to the chase. The mentoring role really developed after I stopped working for Leslie. Throughout my career and right up until he died I would visit him regularly, and every time he would always be right on the button. He was a very supportive man, not in a gushing or paternalistic manner.

Adam Boulton is the political editor of Sky News

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